Facebook and My Secret Identity

Recently, I’ve been exploring the tools Facebook provides for posting notes and links to only a subset of the people I’m connected with on the service. I knew there was supposed to be a way to do it, but it took me a while to figure out how — even as a supposedly tech-savvy guy. So I thought others might find this useful.

The secret identity I’m trying to protect is not so secret to BlueBroward people: my identity as a partisan Democrat. And it’s not much of a secret from anyone motivated to do a minor amount of digging or backgrounding on me. Still, there are old high school friends and former colleagues I have reconnected through Facebook who might not care for my politics, not to mention potential employers and potential customers for my consulting business whose politics I don’t know and who I don’t necessarily want to know mine. Or, at least, I don’t need to go out of my way to be “in their face” with my political views.

To some extent, I’ve told professional contacts that I stick to “just business” topics on LinkedIn, and they shouldn’t connect with me on Facebook if they don’t want to hear about my politics. But it’s hard to set rigid boundaries. Also, some of the local political issues that I write about on Facebook are pretty irrelevant to writers, editors, and tech people I know in New York and California.

For some time now, I’ve been trying to tag new contacts as belonging to one or more of a few categories — personal, professional or Lyman Hall (those high school folks from Connecticut). You can do this when you add a new contact, like this:

Adding a new contact to a group

I can either choose an existing group or type in the name of a new group I want to create. These groups are just labels for types of Facebook friends within my larger contact list.

I haven’t done this as consistently as I might have, and wasn’t doing it at all when I first joined Facebook. So I also had to go back and do it retroactively by choosing the “Edit Friends” off the Account menu —

Edit Friends
Edit Friends

— and then categorizing individual contacts.

Assigning Friends to Groups

Assigning Friends to Groups

Now, when posting a status update or link, I can click on the lock icon to get options for restricting the item’s distribution. I then select “Customize” off the list.

Restricting to a Custom List
Restricting to a Custom List

Within the customize options you want to restrict to “Specific People”

Share with Specific People
Share with Specific People

At this point, I could type in a list of people’s names. But what I’m going to do instead is use the group keyword for my political friends.

Share with a Group
Share with a Group

Notice that I could make this my default setting. But no, there are plenty of other links I share that are not political. And sometimes I may want to share a political point even with those who might not agree with me (I just want to be able to pick my battles).

Once I click “Save Settings,” I am returned to my home screen, where I can post this my message by clicking the “Share” button. But now, instead of being shared with everyone, the item should only be displayed to the people on my “political” list.

Author: David F. Carr

BlueBroward webmaster

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